When we moved to this house, it was largely to get our dogs to stop barking. Living on base or in the city, they'd sit by the window watching for bikes, or scooters, or passing children. And when they saw those things, they'd go bananas, barking and jumping at the window. I guess in the absence of any real threat to their turf, they had to find alternatives.
We moved out here where there was nothing outside the window but a highway and a big farmer's field, and we heaved a HUGE sigh of relief that there was nothing left for the dogs to bark at. So, you can imagine our irritation when, in the first five minutes of living here, they switched from bikes and kids to local wildlife. A squirrel scampers past, and they bark. A few birds drop in looking for crumbs, and they bark. A fox or deer stops on the front lawn and practically poses for my camera, and Rusty and Jerome make like they're going to bust right through the front window, scaring our guest off before I can even get a shot. It's very annoying.
Then came haying season. You could look out into that far-off field and see the teeniest, tiniest distant piece of farm equipment chugging along, cutting or rolling or picking up the hay--whatever it is the farm equipment does (hey, I'm a city girl!). It was almost invisible to the naked eye, it was so far away. But guess who, with their limited canine vision, still managed to make it out and identify it as a threat? ALL SUMMER LONG!
So I got myself into a very bad habit. When the dogs started barking, I stopped bothering to check if there was an axe murderer on the lawn, and just started yelling "SHADDAP!!"
I'm not sure why I continued doing it because it has never, in fact, shut them up. But I did continue and it became a bit of a pattern. Which brings me to today.
Rosemary's Baby, as you may know, has autism. He has some very limited language but is fairly non-verbal. To help him with this (among other things), I send him to a couple of different preschool morning programs. Today, upon picking him up, I was told that he'd had a great day, and had made some new progress in that he'd started shaking his head when he didn't want something. I agreed that this was great progress for him and thanked his aide for letting me know. She replied cheerily with, "No problem. Oh, and he also told me to shut up."
My mouth literally dropped open in horror. I was mortified, and as I spluttered out my apologies, I knew I had no one but myself to blame. Because he doesn't talk or consistently respond to my directions, he seems younger than he is. Because of that, I treat him like a baby and I assume he doesn't understand things that he obviously does. Under all that funny behaviour and lack of verbal communication is a regular little 4 year-old taking it all in. And apparently, letting it all out as well.
I can only, at this point, accept it as a learning experience. No more yelling at the dogs, no spilling my drink and thoughtlessly saying "oh, #*%@!!" and assuming no one is listening from the other room. And if I want to put a positive spin on this, I could note that he did express something verbally, which is definitely a step in the right direction. But in future, even if there's a circus of wildlife parading around our driveway, and the dogs are pulling down the curtains in a frenzy of barking, I'm going to have to completely keep my cool. As it turns out, Rosemary's Baby is looking to me to set an example.
And if today's events are anything to go by, I should be scared to death.